Review welcomes letters from readers and will print them as space permits. Letters may be edited for brevity and clarity. Unsigned letters cannot be used, but names of the writers may be withheld on request. Send letters to Rochester Review, 147 Wallis Hall, P.O. Box 270033, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627-0033; rochrev @rochester.edu.
“The percentage of women in the most powerful corridors of America is still woefully deficient.” —Bob Dardano ’77
Debate on Susan B.
How sad, and how tiring it is, that here in 2006 we still find those who feel that women have already come far enough. I refer to the letter by Marc Roemer ’88, ’97 (MS) (“Still Debating Susan B.,” Summer 2006) in which he implies that since women “have outnumbered men in college since at least 1983” that somehow their struggle for “equal rights” must have been a success. He questions the need for a yearlong program about Susan B. Anthony by stating, curiously in my opinion, that women hold the advantage in some social respects.
Forgive me, but I thought that women have better health than men despite the paucity of medical research on women’s health issues, not because they control the medical community. And reproductive rights? I needn’t go there.
Well, the numbers do tell us something. In 2006, the percentage of women in the most powerful corridors of America is still woefully deficient. Only 14 percent of the Senate is female, as is 19 percent of the House of Representatives.
There are only eight female governors among the 50 states and a scant 11 of the Fortune 500 companies are headed by women. I can only imagine that the percentage of female college presidents is equally embarrassing, despite the supposed advantage women in education have had, in sheer numbers, since 1983.
Over the past 20 or 30 years, it seems to me that as straight, white men went from controlling 98 percent of the levers of power in this country all the way down to, perhaps, 90 percent (gasp!), the cry of “enough already” could be heard coast to coast.
No, we need the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership to continue educating us. As long as every other newspaper article about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, two of our most powerful women, seems to contain comments on their clothing or hairstyles, we know that women are not yet equal.
Bob Dardano ’77
A Medical History Lesson
The article entitled “A Cautionary Tale” (Alumni Gazette, Summer 2006) brings into focus Harriet Washington’s ’76 book, Medical Apartheid; The Dark History of Medical Experimentation with African Americans from the Colonial Era to the Present. The article includes the paragraph: “It is a troubling history. Washington tells, for example, of how physician James Marion Sims experimented on slave women, performing vaginal surgery on them without the benefit of anesthesia.”
The statement is correct but must be placed in a historical perspective. The “experiments” referred to took place in Montgomery, Alabama, from 1845 to May 1849. They were actually “therapeutic interventions” rather than “experiments.” A more critical fact is that surgical anesthesia was not formally introduced until October 16, 1846, at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and its use did not spread throughout the medical profession for years.
The slave girls that Sims performed his “experiments” on had disabling vesicovaginal fistulas, or small, abnormal tracts that allowed urine to seep into the vagina. The consequent soilage precluded the girls’ activities on the plantations. They were desperate social pariahs.
Sims housed the women in a room above his office and provided their food at his own expense. After many failures, Sims eventually employed fine wire to close the fistulas. He achieved success where others throughout the world had failed. He was widely praised for a major medical breakthrough in the treatment of a devastatingly compromising condition.
Sims moved to New York City and established the Woman’s Hospital, the first such institution in the world, if one discounts the Rotunda Obstetric Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Sims went on to become the president of the American Medical Association and the American Gynecological Society. Rather than indict him as an uncaring, if not diabolic, self-centered, self-aggrandizing surgeon, it is appropriate that he remains memorialized by a monument on the grounds of the South Carolina capitol, the state where he was born, by a statue on the capitol grounds of Montgomery, Alabama, by a statue in Central Park opposite the New York Academy of Medicine, and by the appellation, “The Father of Modern Gynecology.”
As an addendum, the first successful elective operation within the abdominal cavity was performed by Ephraim McDowell in 1809 on a white 45-year-old woman in Danville, Kentucky. A 22-and-a-half pound ovarian tumor was removed “without the benefit of anesthesia.” McDowell’s revolutionary procedure and Sims’s seminal contributions are included among those highlighted in a book that is being produced, By Their Hands; America’s Contributions to Surgery.
Seymour I. Schwartz ’57M (Res)
I was one of the two tenor soloists in the club that won the Fred Waring National Glee Club contest held in Carnegie Hall and later on the same trip sang in the East Room of the White House for Eleanor, not Franklin, Roosevelt.
Much credit for our success should be given to our director Arthur (Buck) Whittemore ’36E (Mas) and our accompanist Jack Lowe ’38E, ’39E (MM), who shortly thereafter formed Whittemore and Lowe, a twin-piano team that achieved national acclaim and published a number of recordings.
Newt Thomas ’42
A Missed Metaphor?
In the article “A Cancer Vaccine is Born” (Spring 2006), the author wrote “proteins . . . are made up of spaghetti-like strands of genetic material.”
First, the statement is wrong. Proteins are made up of amino acids, not any sort of genetic material. They contain no nucleotides.
Second, the metaphor is not useful. “Spaghetti-like” implies something uniform in composition. Proteins are made up of any of 23 amino acids in an almost infinite variety of sequences. How about saying something like “multicolored strands of Mardi Gras beads”?
Dan Keller ’72, ’80M (PhD)
Eastman Prep Alumni?
Are you a former student of the Eastman School’s Preparatory Department or Community Education Division (now Eastman Community Music School)?
If you are, we want to reconnect with you. This fall, we are starting a new effort to locate our alumni and former students, in order to keep you informed about all the great things happening in our school.
If you would like to find out more about this effort, or would like to update your contact information, call the Eastman Community Music School at (585) 274-1400, or visit esm.rochester.edu/ community.
The University lost a good friend last April, when Dick DeBrine ’58 died.
Those who knew “Gee-raffe” will always remember his friendship as a classmate at Rochester and in the years since graduation. When we first met Dick back in the early 1950s, some of us wondered whether he was for real. He was so “down home” open, friendly, kind, and considerate, with never a bad word for anyone. But as the years proved, what you saw is what you got with “Gee.” He was a good friend and fraternity brother who inspired admiration and respect, especially for his relationship with his “gal,” Joan.
And if you knew him half a century ago, then you should know that we think the man in business and retirement was pretty much the same man we first met as a teen at the University.
Dick’s fondness for the University was evident half a century later as well: He always expressed the opinion that the engineering faculty formed the boy into the man he became. We will miss our friend Dick—for the positive influence he had on us in our younger years as well as our later years.
Joe Steinman ’59
The letter was also signed by Bob Standfast ’59; Gilbert, Arizona; Bob Greeves ’60; Bethesda, Maryland; Bill Martin ’58; Lenoir, North Carolina; John Rathbone ’58; Hamilton, New York—Editor.
Poem to the Editor
I enjoy reading Review each quarter, and I had this reaction after reading the fall 2005 issue:
Reflections on Alumni Magazines
Four times a year I receive an alumni magazine,
The magazine arrives with a cover so attractive,
But the sobering truth to all of this
John Thatcher ’59